By Violet Jira
the Daily Mississippian
The Gamma Iota chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha has been suspended, effective immediately, until May 1, 2025, as a result of hazing violations. The suspension was passed down from the University Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct in concert with Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. It marks the newest development in a year-long saga that began with a hazing incident in the fall of 2020.
The fraternity was previously on interim suspension, resulting from a hazing incident that took place in October 2020. Bleach or cleaning fluid was sprayed onto blindfolded pledge members, with one pledge leveling criminal charges against James Bowes Higgins, who was an active member of Pi Kappa Alpha at the time. During the incident, the pledge alleges that cleaning fluids were sprayed into his mouth, causing him to suffer severe burns to his esophagus.
Through the following spring semester and into fall 2021, the fraternity was subject to sanctions such as membership review by Pi Kappa Alpha national organization, social probation and three mandatory anti-hazing speakers or programs.
According to an email sent by Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brent Marsh to UM fraternity and sorority community members, this outcome is a result of the chapter violating hazing policy and failing to abide by the Administrative Agreement with the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct.
Currently it is unclear what, if any, specific incident or incidents since January resulted in the fraternity being moved from interim to full suspension.
“We take hazing allegations very seriously, investigate them fully and determine appropriate action,” Marsh told The Daily Mississippian. “Leadership from both the University of Mississippi and Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity concluded that the investigation revealed actions concerning enough that the chapter should be closed for a significant period of time.”
In the Division of Student Affairs student conduct rules and regulations, hazing is defined as any action taken or situation created, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate, that causes embarrassment, harassment, ridicule or risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team.
The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity website states that the fraternity does not tolerate hazing and that hazing is against the fraternity’s standards and issued a statement on the Gamma Iota Chapter’s suspension on Thursday.
The University of Mississippi chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha made national news in April 2021 when it was announced that a student and Pi Kappa Alpha member James Bowes Higgins would face aggravated assault charges as a result of the bleach/cleaning supplies hazing incident the previous fall, which took place on Oct. 11, according to a University Police Department incident report (case number 20-1329).
University police filed charges against Higgins on Nov. 17, 2020, and eventually referred him for criminal prosecution. Higgins was scheduled to appear before a grand jury in June and was scheduled to stand trial this fall, according to publicly available Lafayette County Circuit Court documents.
Since the suspension was announced on Nov. 10, Pike Ole Miss parents have started a petition jointly asking that the sanctions against the fraternity be lessened in severity.
“The severity of this incident is not lost on the remaining members, however fraternity life played a large (part) in their decision to enroll at Ole Miss. They are now left with a void, feeling disconnected,” the petition reads. “The young men have already lived through a pandemic and have suffered losses greater than could ever have been imagined. They have persevered and continued on to find a home at Ole Miss and Pi Kappa Alpha. As parents we ask you to let them continue.”
The petition had nearly 1,300 signatures as of Wednesday evening.
Members of Pi Kappa Alpha who live in the fraternity house have until the end of finals week to occupy the house after which time they will have to find accommodations elsewhere.
The Gamma Iota Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha were unable to be reached before the time of publication.